2020.12.09 17:00

Meet Lithuania's new ministers – explainer

Justinas Šuliokas, LRT.lt2020.12.09 17:00

Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė has finished putting together her cabinet and the 14 ministers are ready to take office, once approved by the parliament.

Nine are delegates of the conservative TS-LKD party, three are from the liberal Freedom Party, and two from the Liberal Movement.

Eight are men and six are women. Nine are under the age of 40, including two under 35. Only two have been ministers before.

Read more: Lithuania’s new government: focus on ‘real’ Baltic partnership, soft power, regional leadership

Here is the roaster of PM Ingrida Šimonytė's cabinet:

Gintarė Skaistė – Finance Ministry

The finance minister is the guardian of the country's purse and must come up with funding for a government's ambitious plans – and keep them in check if they risk losing touch with fiscal reality.

As such, the person in the post is traditionally someone from the prime minister's party whose visions must be well aligned – especially as PM Šimonytė is herself an economist and former finance minister.

Gintarė Skaistė, 39, has a PhD in economics and has been a member of parliament with the conservative TS-LKD party since 2016, after serving as a member of the City Council of Kaunas.

Her claim to fame, however, has been a drunk driving incident in 2013 which cost her a suspension of driver's license and a hefty fine.

Hence after her meeting with President Gitanas Nausėda, the latter's spokesman said Skaistė would “have to answer all the questions that arise in the society about her reputation”.

The new ruling coalition and the incoming government have been particularly critical of the 2021 state budget bill they inherited from their predecessors, saying it understates the deficit and does not provide funding for all the planned spending.

Skaistė will therefore have a pressing task of getting the government's finances in order, balancing ambitions to improve public services with pledges not to increase the “tax burden”.

Read more: New Lithuanian government will review all tax exemptions – finance minister-designate

Aušrinė Armonaitė – Economy and Innovation Ministry

The leader of the liberal Freedom Party, Aušrinė Armonaitė, 31, is among the youngest members of the would-be cabinet.

Credited with leading her young party to victory – its success took many by surprise – Armonaitė will have considerable weight in the government and is expected to push forward with a heavily pro-business agenda: cutting regulation, assisting businesses, promoting digitalisation and putting Lithuania in the 20th spot on the Global Innovation Index.

Armonaitė made a good impression on the president, his spokesman said after their meeting. “The conversation showed that she has energy, enthusiasm, and motivation to implement changes discussed at the meeting.”

Read more: Lithuania’s liberal parties to focus on tax breaks, human rights in new coalition

Simonas Gentvilas – Environment Ministry

One of the two ministers nominated by the Liberal Movement, Simonas Gentvilas, 36, has been among the more controversial picks, with environmental groups raising concern about him giving priority to business interests over the environment.

“Forest is not oil that can stay put before someone sucks it out at some point,” he once wrote on Facebook, arguing that Lithuania should be cutting its forests more rigorously.

A petition against Gentvilas' appointment has been signed by over 5,000 people, while he himself has insisted that “environmental protection is a top priority for me”.

He seems to have convinced both PM Šimonytė and President Nausėda that he means it. “Gentvilas is professionally ready to assume this position. But he must also convince the part of society that is not satisfied with the environmental situation,” the president's spokesman said after their meeting.

Dainius Kreivys – Energy Ministry

Dainius Kreivys, 50, is an experienced politician with some baggage. Economy minister in the previous conservative government of PM Andrius Kubilius, Kreivys was forced to resign in 2011 over a conflict of interests when allocating EU funding to schools.

After a stint in business – and an unsuccessful 2019 campaign for the mayorship of Vilnius – Kreivys is back in government and says that Lithuania's top energy-related priorities are boycotting nuclear electricity from Belarus, connecting the country's power grid to the European network and developing domestic energy production capacities.

The president was quite tight-lipped after his meeting with the candidate – his spokesman only said that the two spoke about Kreivys' determination to stave off conflicts of interest.

Evelina Dobrovolska – Justice Ministry

The Freedom Party's nomination of Evelina Dobrovolska, 32, for justice minister kept everyone in suspense until the very end, mainly due to the candidate's relative inexperience in politics.

A graduate of law, Dobrovolska has worked with NGOs on the rights of LGBTQ+ people and ethnic minorities. A native Polish-speaker herself, Dobrovolska has said she is determined to tackle the old deadlock over the spelling of Polish names in Lithuanian passports.

It will probably be up to her to also square the circle of drafting a same-sex civil partnership bill in a way acceptable to both the liberals and the conservatives.

After her meeting with the president, Dobrovolska was described as brave, determined, and ready to implement changes that are important for the Justice Ministry.

“The key questions that the president raised in the meeting were whether Dobrovolska has enough experience to implement these changes and whether she would have sufficient authority in the legal community,” Nausėda’s spokesman said.

Read more: Despite criticism for inexperience, Lithuanian president praises justice minister candidate

Arūnas Dulkys – Health Ministry

Arūnas Dulkys, 48, was another risky nomination, this time from the conservatives. Neither a party member, nor a medical professional, Dulkys was seen as an unconventional choice to take over the Health Ministry in the middle of a health crisis.

Moreover, he was recently dismissed as the country's auditor general upon the president insistence, making everyone wonder whether Nausėda would let him through this time.

“This ministry is leading the way in tackling the [coronavirus] crisis. Naturally, it needs a leader that has strong crisis management skills. Decisions need to be made quickly, decisively, and efficiently,” the president's spokesman said after the meeting with Dulkys, without saying whether the president thought the candidate had it.

Still, PM Šimonytė is said to have vouched for Dulkys and his abilities to lead the country through the crisis.

Gabrielius Landsbergis – Foreign Ministry

The leader of the TS-LKD party, Gabrielius Landsbergis, 38, has kept his ambitions in the new government secret until the very last minute, refusing to discuss which post he set his eyes on and claiming he would not be seeking a ministerial position.

Formerly an employee of the Foreign Ministry, Landsbergis also has some experience in international politics from his short stint as a member of the European Parliament.

There's little disagreement over Lithuania's pro-EU, pro-US foreign policy priorities and Landsbergis is an uncontroversial choice to take over from Linas Linkevičius.

Read more: No need for radical foreign policy change in Lithuania, says foreign minister candidate

Arvydas Anušauskas – Defence Ministry

Arvydas Anušauskas, 57, is a professional historian and author of over 20 books. He has been a conservative member of parliament since 2008 and sat on the National Security and Defence Committee during each of his terms.

The president praised Anušauskas' long experience in national security, as well as his patriotic attitudes, according to Nausėda's spokesman.

Anušauskas has indicated he will pursue ambitious policies: expanding compulsory military service, raising defence funding to 2.5 percent and getting the US to station permanent troops in Lithuania.

On a more personal level, he said he would work to improve his English.

Read more: We can have US troops deployed in Lithuania within years – candidate defence minister

Agnė Bilotaitė – Interior Ministry

A conservative from Klaipėda, Agnė Bilotaitė, 38, has been a parliament member since 2008.

“According to the president, the candidate is not deeply knowledgeable in all areas, but that is compensated for by her motivation and determination,” the president's spokesman characterised the main takeaways from the meeting with Bilotaitė.

Jurgita Šiugždinienė – Education, Science and Sport Ministry

While reforming education is among the new government's top priorities, the choice of Jurgita Šiugždinienė, 48, to head the Education Ministry is an uncontroversial choice.

A former rector of the Kaunas University of Technology, Šiugždinienė also worked in the government of previous conservative PM Andrius Kubilius and was a member of the City Council of Kaunas for one year.

Monika Navickienė – Social Security and Labour Ministry

Monika Navickienė, 39, another low-profile conservative, has been a member of parliament since 2016.

“The candidate demonstrated determination to reduce relative poverty and improve social services that are currently unsatisfactory,” the president's spokesman characterised the candidate after she met with the head of state.

Simonas Kairys – Culture Ministry

A politician from Kaunas, Simonas Kairys, 36, has been a member of the Liberal Movement since 2008 and was elected to the City Council in 2011, serving as deputy mayor. However, he was not re-elected to the council in 2019 and has served as culture adviser to Mayor Visvaldas Matijošaitis.

Nor was Kairys, who had been initially tipped for minister of economy or energy, elected to the parliament in October.

During their meeting, the president noted Kairys' lack of experience in national politics and thought that “this candidate should strengthen his long-term vision for the culture sector”, according to Nausėda's spokesman.

Marius Skuodis – Transport Ministry

Marius Skuodis, 35, was the Freedom Party's last-minute nominee for transport minister after the president rejected the original candidate, Kasparas Adomaitis.

Currently a deputy minister of economy, Skuodis has a PhD in political science, previously worked at the Bank of Lithuania and has lectured at Vilnius University.

Kęstutis Navickas – Agriculture Ministry

Another late replacement, Kęstutis Navickas, 50, was proposed by the TS-LKD after the president rejected the first candidate for agriculture minister, Dalia Miniataitė.

Navickas served as environment minister in 2016–2018, in the government of outgoing Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis. However, he was let go as part of a cabinet reshuffle and fell out with the PM, saying he did not see himself working together with Skvernelis' cabinet anymore.

Navickas joined the conservative party in 2020.

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